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Review of GSM/UMTS-handset Sony Ericsson T650i
Live photos of the Sony Ericsson T650i
In minds of many, Sony Ericsson has a long track record of delivering hi-tech devices with optimal price/quality ratio. This belief first emerged back in the days when the company couldn’t afford having a wide range of products and thus focus on some particular solutions. As its portfolio kept expanding, it became essential to differentiate its offerings not only through feature packs, but also throw some extra weight onto the price tags for design, materials used, quaint looks. Most consumers obviously dislike this approach – what previously was Sony Ericsson’s edge and was given almost for free, is now charged for. Since the brand has grown popular, now offbeat designs come at higher price, which is par for the course with many manufacturers. It is quite another matter though, that for the brand’s fans this is quite unusual and provokes negative feelings. Just remember the Sony Ericsson Z610i, which was a clamshell banking on its queer design, but it never worked out for the Z610i and it enjoyed pretty modest sales. Sony Ericsson’s loyal consumers were not ready to pay more for design, while the rest of the audience turned to the host of counterparts brought by other makers, so eventually the Z610i ended up lost in the drove.
But these isolated cases, when the company failed, come and go all the time and can’t possibly bar development of a whole field. Sony Ericsson is in dire need of fashion-conscious devices, in other words, handsets with platform-specific feature set, but some fancy lines or curves, materials used, sales packages. This is an attempt to foray into the market where Nokia stands strong thanks to such products as the L’Amour Collection and the 8000-series.
The Sony Ericsson T650i is the first stab at this field. In fact, the device is inferior to the Sony Ericsson K790i/K800i in terms of what it does, but goes for more money on its release date. This premium you pay stands solely for its extravagance, which includes the materials used (metal), various light effects and menu design. This solution brings nothing new technology-wise, building upon Sony Ericsson’s A100 platform.
Apparently, with the Sony Ericsson T650i the company aims to strike back at Nokia’s solutions like the Nokia 6500 Classic or the Nokia 7500/7900 Prism. If you put them up against each other on paper, you might be able to spot some competition going on, but in real life the choice will always be up to the user and his/her taste. This battle is about design and by no means functionality – in these products it is the last factor to look at.
So, it turns outs that the T650i costs more than the company’s flagship, the Sony Ericsson K790i/K800i, and its replica coming in a more conventional shell, the Sony Ericsson K770i goes for less money, but arrives after the T650i. On the face of it, this model seems to have parted ways with the company’s portfolio. Had it come out at one time with the Sony Ericsson K850i, it would have looked like a consistent move – similar keys, hefty price tag, and there would have been the dilemma of choosing one of them, and the T650i would have definitely benefited from this. But as it stands now, the new flagship is postponed, leaving the T650i all alone in the range. And this will not help its sales in any way.
Over at Sony Ericsson they dub the T650i as “the classics reborn” sending us way back to the times of Sony Ericsson T610i. These two share the design cues to a certain extent; however they are by no means look-a-likes, that’s for sure. The “T” index tacked onto this model is all another tribute to the Sony Ericsson T610i.
The handset comes in a choice of three colors - Growing Green, Midnight Blue, Eclipse Black. All three flavors feature metal top, made of polished metal – the sides and the underside follow the suit. You can easily see circles left by the polishing device, which enhances the metal parts with unique texture.
The casing has proven to be extremely fingerprint-resistant; the only part of it that falls flat in this regard is the display’s mineral glass. On the other hand, the metal found in the T650i picks up scuffs and scratches with ease, which is the disaster common to all handsets of this type, just remember how fast the back cover of the Nokia E61i rubs off.
The lower part of the casing is composed of matt plastic, which lends the T650i a very strange feel while in hands – the top part chills your palm, while everything beneath it has the same temperature as the environment you are in.
Another design trait is the battery cover, whose skeleton is made of plastic and obviously it was coated in metal afterwards – this “sandwich”-esque construction does its job, making the cover even sturdier.
The volume rocker sits on the right-hand side, as well as the dedicated camera button. The lens of the 3,2 Mpix camera slightly protrudes from the surroundings, don’t hope for a shutter – it is a CyberShot-only goodie.
The loudspeaker for ringtones is housed on the back. The bottom end features the holes for a carrying strap, while on the top you will find the power button, doubling as the profile switch.
On the left spine is the Fast Port connector, and since there is a deck stand tweaked in a way to get along with this socket type and placement, it turns out to be quite handy.
The face plate also sports the forwardfacing camera for video calls alongside with the ambient light sensor. The slender earpiece is hidden behind fine metal grill.
Measuring 104x46x12,5 mm and tipping the scales at 95 grams, so the T650i, with its average, in the good size, dimensions will easily slip in just about any pocket or purse.
The display shows up to 262 K colors at 240x320 pixel resolution (2 inches diagonal, TFT), which allows accommodating up to 8 text and 3 service lines for most applications; and when browsing web-pages, or handling e-mails or text messages, you can cram more lines into the display by decreasing the font size.
Similarly to other Sony Ericsson’s models, the S500i utilizes mirror layer that improves its readability while in the sun and allows its picture to stay crisp and visible. Similar displays have already been spotted among the company’s latest offerings, like the Sony Ericsson S500i and the Sony Ericsson W580i. The only thing we can fault it for is the smallish diagonal, while other specifications are quite decent.
All buttons are shaped as tiny squares which do resemble those found in the Sony Ericsson K850i. To a certain extent, replication of the flagship’s keypad indicates the T650i’s status they are trying to clad it with. For instance, the Sony Ericsson K770i’s keypad is so much less sophisticated, and thus is more conventional.
The keys are lit in white, but that’s not all – there are various effects available as well, like fading, waves of light etc., which all look quite charming.
Ergonomics-wise, the keypad is not the thing we have any gripes with – it feels unusual at first, but then you get used to it and won’t experience any hardships. The navigation buttons boasts metal-like relief skin, and is also a breeze to handle.
The back cover sits firmly in its slot, however it is quite easy to pull open. Inside the battery compartment you will find a 930 mAh Li-Pol battery – the BST-38. The maker claims a battery life you up to 300 hours of standby and up to 7 hours of talk time. In conditions of Moscow networks the T650i stayed online for around three days, and we were not particularly heavy on its features (up to 1 hour of calls, 30 minutes of games, 20 minutes of web surfing). Should you start squeezing out of the phone more than that, get ready to recharge the T650i daily or once in two days. However, the less you talk the longer it stays up and running, actually up to 3-4 days, but that’s the least possible usage pattern. In Europe the battery life will be at least twice as good in all modes, all thanks to better coverage. Continuous music playback time - up to 16 hours.
On USB-connection you are forced to pick connection type – specifically whether you will be accessing data stored on the memory card or just keep managing the phone or activate Print mode. For the first mode we mentioned above the handset goes off and you gain access to the contents of both the memory card and the phone internal memory. Despite the maker claiming it to be USB 2.0, data transfer speed doesn’t exceed 500 Kb/s. If you just want your W580i to turn into a modem, then pick the second option, when you will have a chance to play around with various USB settings for going online.
Bluetooth. The handset comes with EDR-enabled Bluetooth 2.0, the menu enables you to turn on enhanced power saving mode. There is also A2DP support, which allows employing wireless headsets with the W580i. The list of supported profiles:
The handset comes with roughly 16 Mb of user-available memory, the package also includes a 256 Mb M2 memory card (no particular reason for throwing such a smallish card into the box). The T650i also supports hot-swap, meaning that you can change memory cards (up to 2 Gb) on the go.
The W580i puts up typical numbers for the company’s latest generation of devices and is ahead of most models available on the market. There are no limits on JAR-file size, HEAP size – from 512 Kb to 1.5 Mb.
The handset enjoys a 3,2 Mpix CMOS-matrix with autofocus, which proves to be different from that found in the Sony Ericsson K790i/K800i and snaps worse pictures in terms of quality. The T650i also employs the CyberShot camera interface that you know so well from the previous devices.
The Camera settings look as follows:
The screen serves as a viewfinder while in the shooting mode. The picture moves very smoothly, details don’t get dropped out. Numeric keys help in switching between various functions and shooting parameters quickly that significantly fastens work.
Video may be recorded in two resolutions (176x144, 128x96), file format is 3GP. Clip duration may be limited (up to 10 seconds) or unlimited. The quality of the clips is below all criticism; so far this has been the weakest spot of all Sony Ericsson-branded devices.
The main menu pops up before you as a grid consisting of 12 icons (one of the themes also features horizontally laid out menu). Shortcut number navigation is on the T650i’s spec sheet as well – you can assign shortcuts to most menu items, that the handset comes pre-installed with, whereas own applications or files can’t be set up for one-touch access.
Text input has remained on the same comfort level, so, pressing the "#" key brings out a list of the available languages and you can easily switch between them while typing.
Besides traditional vertically arranged sub-menus, the maker has provided subject-based horizontal tabs. It means that while viewing a list of the dialed numbers, one can see not only the dialed numbers but in the same time (by leaning the joystick horizontally) switch between missed and received call tabs. In the phone menu this kind of navigation is provided anywhere it's possible and it makes for much better usage experience. The menu ergonomics is quite high in this phone. I also have to note that such horizontal tabs appear in Phonebook, Settings and other menu items as well.
Activity Menu is standard Sony Ericsson fare. The first three tabs display various events, like missed calls, memos, messages – actually all this can be found in the first tab. One can disable Activity Menu for these events as well – in this case pop up windows, reminding of a certain event type will appear on the screen. The third tab features the shortcuts, which you should set up yourself. And the added fourth one contains links to the most frequently used applications and resources – and the top of this list is claimed by Google search.
The second tab is the most interesting, since it appears to be some kind of a task manager, featuring the list of all currently running applications. User is able to have up to eight Java-applications launched (in fact there are no definite caps) simultaneously and switch between them. This may come in handy, in case you use an ICQ-esque mobile client, which should be constantly online, and at the same time want to play a Java-game. Up to now counterparts of this solution by other manufacturers haven't been announced.
Themes, design components
The S500i is positioned as an emotional offering, which automatically arms it with various themes and the wallpaper that changes depending on time of the day That is, the handset comes pre-installed with 5 different themes, which are all flash-based and alter the main menu view, as well as its layout. These themes are very interesting, vibro-effects trigger when navigating through the menu, and some themes modify position of track information windows in standby. In a word, the S500i is decent in the sense of themes.
Another thing of note here is a couple of video-tones that come with the handset – in fact, these are quite simple tunes merged with straightforward graphics, which can be used as ring tones. So far none of the makers has offered any sort of this feature, although Nokia is coming this way as well, however it hasn’t rolled out pre-installed tones as yet.
Up to 1000 contacts with fully filled in fields can be stored in the phonebook, but number of phone numbers is limited to 2500. This means that despite the ability to assign up to 5 phone numbers to one contact, you cannot go over 2500 entries. This is enough even for the most active users, as only few have more than 500 entries in their phonebooks.
As mentioned above, several phone numbers can be submitted for one contact, as well as address, email, IM number, other contact information. In settings you can select the required fields, they will be available, meanwhile the useless ones will not be presented. Contacts can be sorted by fields, including name and surname, but only one input field. Unlike the previous models, this time around we have dynamics in - handset automatically sorts the list after changes.
It is possible to assign custom ring tone and photo to each contact. On incoming call the image and ring tone will be used. Date of birth field can be synchronized with Organizer, at that you will have a chance to set how many days prior to the event the handset should warn you.
When typing in information, you can scroll between tabs, in the first one you enter phone numbers, categorize them by types. On the whole the organization of this process reminds of Outlook, and it means comfort in the first place. Voice tags can be added for required phone numbers, names, there can be up to 40 of them. Voice dialing remained the way it was many months ago, it starts looking archaic with all these voice independent recognition software being implemented by the competitors.
The company still follows its traditional beliefs that SIM-card is used only in case of emergency, that’s why the only way to see its contents is to go into special option in the menu. SIM contacts are not displayed in the general list.
You can create a back-up copy of all entries in phonebook, which will be stored on the memory card, so that you will have the ability to restore them afterwards.
Contact Groups serve only for mass SMS sending, since it is impossible to bind custom ringtone or photo for Group.
Any video clip may be used as Caller ID for a contact in your phonebook.
All tools used for managing messages are standard, there are some templates available and you can come up with some more of your own. Phone’s memory together with SIM-card is used for storing messages. Chat function is supported. On the whole everything is just like in any other phone from this company. Only emoticons icons have changed – now they look much more attractive.
The MMS implementation is as always great, you can literally create video clips, there are lots of settings and this is one of those things that give SE’s product a cutting edge over competitors.
E-Mail client can send and receive e-mails, all sorts of encodings are supported. The emails can be stored on memory card.
In email settings you can setup separate password for SMTP-accounts, this is very convenient. The settings are flexible, support for almost all encodings, and not only Unicode has been added. Attachments that are supported by the phone are presented as icons in an email’s body. The phone doesn’t recognize office files or PDF, but they can be stored in any directory. The limit for outgoing/incoming email size is set by operator. Emails with 6-7 Mb attachments can be sent without any hassles. The phone supports Push Mail standard. Naturally send & receive process is carried out in background mode.
The settings for this item are really simple - you just specify the title for feed and its address. The phone will connect and download it without your assistance. You can update only one item, or the whole feed at once. Capabilities of built-in browser are used for displaying the feeds. Feeds may be updated on schedule
Up to 30 records can be stored in the general list, all with date and time. Icon that stands for call type (missed/received/dialed) is shown next to each entry. Besides this additional icon identifies if this phone number is present in the phone book or SIM-card. The list of missed calls can be viewed separately and stores up to 10 entries. In this menu you can also see the cost and length of all outgoing calls and last call. Navigating through the lists works with the help of tabs and this does save much time.
Photos, music files can be accessed from this menu. MusicDJ function is rather interesting, even though it is a niche solution and there is not much of a chance that this feature will be highly demanded. In the editor you can create ring tones and edit up to four bands.
Advanced version of MusicDJ is called VideoDJ, it allows editing not only music files, but also adding images and signs. The resulting file is recorded in .3GP file which can be sent by MMS or Email, or just transferred to another phone.
PhotoDJ has kept the name but had its inners completely revamped. The manufacturer has partly removed the shroud handing over the impending CyberShot projects, which will feature this editor by default. Now tell us, how often do you draw with your handset or create own pictures? The answer for most will be as clear as it only could be – never. At the same time getting rid of red-eyes effect, adjusting a shot’s brightness, contrast, sharpness, overlaying some effects, might well come in handy on certain occasions, but to do that you frequently have to wait the moment when you get photos uploaded to a PC. The new PhotoDJ looks to make performing these most basic actions as easy as it has never been before, enhance the handset with the ability to carry out these operations on the go. This is a really positive move.
Remote control – ability to control other devices via the phone’s Bluetooth connectivity. It is standard for all phones made by Sony Ericsson.
The sound can be recorded by Sound Recorder - it allows making clips that can be later used as ring tones. Phone calls can be recorded too, this is done from context menu, no time limits are set for the Sound Recorder.
Games – the handset comes with one game, Lumines Block Challenge.
Organizer keeps a lot of functions underneath. Let’s get Calendar out of the way first. There are three view modes embedded in the W580i’s calendar: weekly, monthly and daily. The last option displays the list of all events and memos, in two others you will see highlighted time or day. You can switch to required day and year, or month. So everything is pretty simple, just as the schedule input is. You get the ability to name the event, define the place where it will take place, set length and setup the reminder (before or right at the start of the event). Recurrent events support is also onboard. Types of reoccurrence: daily, monthly, yearly. Reminders work even if the phone is turned off as well, unless you disable this function.
To do list in this phone is quite ascetic. There are only two types of events: phone call and reminder. On the other hand, this is really enough, simplicity has its own advantages.
The phone has full-fledged search, set up for calendar: you specify the search line (word or part of it) and after a while you will see all events that match this criteria. The function is quite speedy even if the organizer has more than 100 entries; fast switch to the event from the search window is supported.
Notes. The phone supports notes entry, though they are limited in length. The name of the note you see on the list will be first word entered. This is not always convenient since you will have to think of the first word that would tell you what the note is all about.
Alarm Clock. Now you have access to five alarm clocks, and each of them can be set up manually. They can work in definite week days. Besides the ring tone for alarm clock you can select small note and picture, they will be displayed when alarm clock goes on. Any music file can be assigned as the alarm tone.
Stopwatch/Countdown. Here everything is quite standard, although the same can be said of the stopwatch that has intermediate times function. The phone has special application for storing secret codes, which was a huge success in previous models, well, standard calculator is onboard too.
The browser owns a separate menu item, the version is 2.0, it supports secured connections which is quite important in case you are using electronic transactions. New wallpapers, themes and ring tones can be downloaded right away – all this is available at the original web-site.
Standard browser for Sony Ericsson phones is NetFront, which supports single-column web pages display and HTML. One of the best things about it, is the ability to create folders with files and bookmarks. The browser is considered to be one of the market’s best offerings, but limited phone resources do it no favors. On the whole those using Internet constantly should consider buying PDA or laptop, since full-fledged Internet access is not an ultimate must-have for this device type. At the same time RSS Feeds support is great, it allows using the phone for reading news, announcements and articles on the go in a convenient fashion.
HTML pages that contain advanced formatting or exceed 500kb in their size will not be displayed. On the whole standard browser is all fine, but usage of Opera Mini is preferable, since it has got way more to offer.
This menu stores all settings related to the phone’s operation. In the stand by mode clock can be displayed at the bottom (on or off), you an also alter the font size, in case you select big letters it will be easy to see what time it is, but the font itself becomes a tad transparent. There isn’t anything to add, all the rest is standard.
File manager, memory volume
The user has 16-18 MB of available memory at his disposal, add empty M2 memory card to that too. Here all data (photos, videos, applications) can be stored. The remaining memory is occupied by preinstalled applications, which cannot be wiped. Part of memory is dedicated to phonebook, call lists, etc.
The phone has a basic file manager, with its help files can be sorted by various folders, custom directories can be created in phone’s memory, files can be moved there as well. With or without cable the phone can become a perfect storage, there are no problems with recording your own files, even if they cannot be opened by the phone.
Traditional file sorting includes the following options: date, type and size. The Image Gallery has new setting called Timeline, after you activate it you will see a bar on which months will be shown. And in lists you will see photos that were made during this or that month. You can make the list more detailed by pressing the same key twice, in that case you will see days instead of months. This is a good way to wander around in tons of images.
The manufacturer has singled out the player in an individual menu item for the purpose of emphasizing how different it is compared to the music player, and other makers’ offerings, where video and music players share one section. On the plus side is ability to playback QVGA-clips at 30 frames per second, progressive fast-forward feature, landscape mode switcher, auto-scaling of high resolutions down to the display’s size. And the last, but of course not the least, highlight on the list is possibility to get snaps of frames of the played back video, which are saved as pictures and can be used in whatever way you like afterwards.
The W580i has memory capable of storing up to 20 FM radio stations and the auto-tuning ability, as well as RDS feature onboard. The Radio application used here is no different from that found on the K750i quality-wise, meaning that it is mostly fine.
Walkman player 1.4
The handset locates all files and folders on the memory card, and then gets the necessary data from ID3-tags. Supported audio formats - MP3, AAC, AAC+, E-AAC+, WAV, WMA and m4a. There are no limitations on bit rates; you can also upload files with VBR. The company recommends using files with 192 Kbit/s bit rate.
Among the settings available there are adjustable equalizers with some presets (Bass, Voice, Tremble etc). In terms of what it can do, the player belongs to the first generation of Walkman with no bells and whistles, like Album Art support or other extra features.
The handset comes included with a single application – AccuWeather that allows checking out weather in different regions across the globe.
Despite its 72-chord polyphony, the K770i is no better than other Sony Ericsson branded phones in terms of audio performance. The loudspeaker is average volume-wise and has a great deal of bass in its sounding, so the call alert is easily heard even on a busy street. The silent alert is of moderate power or even slightly higher than that, but even this fact isn’t an excuse for the situations when it proves too weak to be felt. The reception part is in line with other products from the company, meaning that it is quite decent.
The handset started shipping early in September for 380-420 Euro. Looking at the T650i from the standpoint of functionality and competition inside the Sony Ericsson’s portfolio, it is way too much – you may well call it overpriced. But since its design might actually get someone fall in love with it, the price matters take a back seat and lose any meaning. Curiously, the T650i is almost like the Motorola PEBL, with its positioning, the way we look at it and so on. As you might remember the PEBL was all but a failure and then got pushed out of the market with one of its final price tags a tad heftier than 130 USD. The Sony Ericsson T650i is very unlikely to share the same destiny, but one this is for sure- the company will adjust its price, because as it stands now, this is a very niche offering that won’t generate significant sales.
For example Nokia has a strong understanding of how the conjuncture has changed lately and offers its own fashion-conscious models at mid-range price point – namely Nokia 7500/7900 Prism. They charge less for these, and the specifications are a tad worse, for example the camera module, but is this what a fashion-savvy solution is all about? Sony Ericsson hasn’t embedded its very best camera either. It turns out that the company’s first attempt to foray into the segment of fashion-conscious phones is, if not a failure, not ever-so successful. This is some helpful experience for Sony Ericsson, so let’s hope the impending devices will be more eye-catching, offering “pure fashion” for their money.
Published 13 September 2007
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